Last week’s Atlantic Council speech by CIA director Michael Hayden drew half a dozen television crews and was the subject of hundreds of media reports. At least 348 bloggers weighed in as well, according to Google.
Most of these consisted of simply pointing to a mainstream press tory and quoting or sumarizing the part that caught the blogger’s attention. Quite a number, however, contained substantive analysis. For example:
RealClearWorld‘s Greg Scoblete, reacting to Hayden’s report that Muslim leaders are speaking out against the barbaric acts of al Qaeda and thereby helping tremendously, observes, “I wonder if these voices are speaking out against al-Qaeda barbarity writ large, or against al-Qaeda’s violence perpetrated against other Muslims. That’s an important distinction.” He notes recent surveys by World Public Opinion and Pew Research that offer mixed evidence on that score and concludes, “We may not be winning the ideological battle per se so much as al-Qaeda is losing it. Again, that’s an important distinction, because new leaders could direct the group away from attacks against fellow Muslims and back toward Western targets (which is what Ayman al Zawahiri urged the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to do in Iraq). That, in turn, would improve al-Qaeda’s standing in the Muslim world and put the U.S. back on square one.”
U.S. News associate editor Alex Kingsbury, posting at the cleverly named alexkingsbury.com, has an extensive report on the speech. His takeaway is that “the al Qaeda terrorism threat is mutating.” He also believes that Hayden’s emphasis on the importance of the Pakistani tribal regon “appeared to break with President Bush, who as recently as last month was still calling Iraq the central front in the war against terrorism. Hayden said that the terrorist group Al Qaeda in Iraq ‘is on the verge of strategic defeat.'”
Jeff Stein, writing at CQ Politics‘ SpyTalk blog, made a similar observation, noting that “During the campaign, Obama repeatedly argued that the Iraq invasion was a mistake, because the main front against terrorism is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. On Thursday, Hayden sounded like he was getting with the program.”
Counterterrorism Blog‘s James Gordon Meeks observed that Obama must have missed Hayden’s remarks because he told 60 Minutes that “capturing or killing Bin Laden is a critical aspect of stamping out Al Qaeda. He is not just a symbol, he’s also the operational leader of an organization that is planning attacks against U.S. targets.” While that echoed Hayden’s comments, Meeks believes it should have been clear not only that extraordinary effort has been expended for a decade on doing precisely that but that OBL is so preoccupied with his own security that he’s essentially contained already.
Bill Roggio of Long War Journal includes Hayden’s observation that al Qaeda has regrouped in Pakistan as part of a long roundup of news on operations in the border regions, noting that five senior leaders of the organization have been killed there this year but that operations have been scaled back since David Petraeus took over Central Command.
At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey focuses on Hayden’s comments on having disrupted a major terrorist attack, which he surmisses “would have eclipsed the scale of the 9/11 attacks and returned AQ to relevance.”
Blake Hounshell, writing at Foreign Policy‘s Passport blog, notes, as I did, the wide range of takeways the major news outlets got from Hayden’s remarks and wishes the CIA had a transcript up. No fear: we’ve got one here.
And, of course, what would a blogger roundup be without at least one snarky comment? Let’s go with FireDogLake‘s Attaturk who, reacting to Hayden’s comment that “appears to be largely isolated from the day-to-day operations of the organization he nominally heads,” jokes, “But enough about Bush, what is up with Bin Laden?”
James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.